The 2008 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded yesterday to three scientists working with HIV and HPV. Two French researchers, Francois Barre-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier, were reworded for their work discovering the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). German scientist, Dr. Harald zur Hausen, was also honored for his work demonstrating the link between two strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV) and cervical cancer.
The Nobel citation credited Barre-Sinoussi and Montagnier’s discovery with reducing the spread of the AIDS epidemic and enabling development of antiretroviral treatment, according to the Agence-France Presse. Since its discovery in the early 1980s, AIDS has killed over 25 million people.
According to the Los Angeles Times, in the 1980s, Dr. zur Hausen, found that HPV caused cervical cancer by showing the virus’ presence in cervical cancer tumors. By 1985, he had discovered the two strains of HPV, HPV-16 and HPV-18, that are now known to cause approximately 70 percent of all cervical cancers. Vaccines against HPV-16 and HPV-18 are credited with slowing the growth of cervical cancer rates.